Spotlight on the Northwest Passage

April 24, 2015


The Northwest Passage has long been the “Holy Grail” of adventure travelers. Of course, there is a big difference between reading about the Northwest Passage and going head to head with this adventure.

Polar Bear

You’ve probably heard of the passage, although few people throughout history have actually traveled this famous sea route. The opportunity to do so doesn’t come around often! Still, there is much myth and a great deal of history associated with this sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by way of the Arctic Ocean.

The challenge of the Northwest Passage

Even the very words “Northwest Passage” speaks wonder and excitement to a true adventure traveler. It is one of the most advanced maritime challenges the world has to offer.

Big ice

Located approximately 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle and a mere 1,200 miles from the North Pole, it extends 900 miles. Simply reaching the Northwest Passage is a feat in its own right. Doing so requires a trip through tens of thousands of icebergs, many of which reach several hundred feet in height.


The history of the Northwest Passage

Western explorers tackled this rough stretch of sea long before Quark began offering arctic voyages to the region. For hundreds of years, dating back to King Henry VII of England and John Cabot of the late 1490s, explorers dreamt of establishing a commercial sea route that connected the Atlantic and Pacific.

Many men tried and many men failed. For example, Sir Humphrey Gilbert drowned in 1583 in an attempt to find a route. In 1845, Sir John Franklin and his crew of 129 men departed England in search of the passage, resulting in one of the greatest archaeological and marine mysteries of the last century and a half, the Lost Franklin Expedition.

Over the years, however, data gathered by explorers began to point towards a route now known as the Northwest Passage.

But it was not until 1903 to 1906 that Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen finally made it through onboard the Gjöa, a 47-ton herring boat.


Crossing the Northwest Passage with Quark

Although modern technology has made life easier for adventure travelers, there is nothing simple about crossing the Northwest Passage. It may not be as daunting a task as it was in the 1500s, but don’t be fooled: this trip will put a sailor’s skills to the test.

Alex McNeil, a Quark Expedition Leader, is looking forward to leading a group of travelers through the passage. “It’s complex; there are six different ways to make the transit,” McNeil said. He adds just how challenging the transit truly is by saying, “there’s no guarantee you’re going to get through to become a part of this very exclusive travel club.”

Alex McNeil

In 1997, icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, operated by Quark, was the first ship ever to circumnavigate Antarctica with passengers. This indomitable expedition ship enables travelers to reach areas they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access, due to heavy multi-year sea ice.

For 2016, Quark is returning the mighty icebreaker to service, to take on the Northwest Passage on the Arctic Icebreaker Expedition: Ultimate Northwest Passage voyage.

Or, adventurers have the option of traveling on one of Quark’s small, nimble expedition ships on unique itineraries that visit the Northwest Passage, including:

Contact one of our expert Polar Travel Advisers to learn more about which Northwest Passage itinerary is right for you.

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An Arctic Expedition Through The Northeast Passage
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